Here’s a review on our recent trip to Florida 17 Nov –2nd Dec courtesy of Travel City Direct
I expect the controversy will continue , but my views are unlikely to change much having flown with many different airlines..
But once again the contributors to TA have come up trumps and given us some new experiences along with some good deals.
Our flight was loaded and ready to go on time at Manchester but we were kept waiting at the dock by air traffic control and was 20 min late leaving. But we arrived at Sanford on time after a very bumpy ride as far as Newfoundland. But the pilot had pulled down the throttles and slowed down the aircraft some 8oo miles from Sanford or we would have been there 15-20 mins early
The aircraft seating was more generous than any economy seat I have had with any other airline. The food was nice , eatable , and drinks were free. Although I got the impression that Alcoholic drinks were rationed. The aircraft didn’t not have TV in backs of seats and for the rubbish they show it wouldn’t have bothered me if there was not any of any description. The flight crew were pleasant and helpful and worked continuously throughout the flight.
On our arrival at Sanford another Air Atlanta Europe 747-300 had landed only 15 min earlier it also had dropped 554 passengers off . Being seated right at the back of the aircraft we were almost the last off the plane into the emigration hall which by then was bulging at the seams. But this was cleared in 25 min's and empty.
We collected our hire car from Dollar and was on the road in 45 min's. I asked Dollar if the renter could bring the vehicle back full and not pay their fuel charge.
The answer was NO. they charged me $49 for a tank of fuel. But I could have filled it for around $30, depending which filling station I went to.
As we walked off the plane through the decorated corridors There was a notice which was only partly finished it read “ Welcome to Florida” the bit which was missing was “and a lot of the Worlds Worst Drivers”. But they would say of course “It’s All the tourist who drive badly” . they claim they don’t know where they are going, and only use to a car which they drive on the wrong side of the road. But its not “Tourist” who are driving pickups. 4X4s with trailers and boats behind. They bomb along nose to tail doing 10 mph above the speed limit. Blow their horns and intimidate by tailgating any driver who wants to stay within the law
They have little or no lane discipline , they swerve in , out, and across traffic lanes. Do not give any signals of their intention , and pass on both sides, including the lane for breakdown use.
If they see a traffic light change to amber, this does not mean get your foot on the break , but slam it down on the gas and charge the lights . If they have less than 50 yds to the light when red appears it seems OK to go through. If you stop on amber or red this is the occasion to exercise the horn which father Christmas brought last year.
They are taught the 3 second rule in their theory classes but don’t apply it when on the roads. Those that do and leave a safe distance between themselves and the vehicle in front this is an invitation for someone behind to fill it , often 2 of them.
They also have poor reversing and parallel parking skills . Having said all that I suppose they don’t do too badly considering they get NO practical Driving tuition on the road to a national approved standard. By a government or state approved driving instructors. It seems they do all this in a classroom in theory ,and the practical bit on the road is done by parents or friends. If the parent has poor road skills they teach their kids poor road skills.
In Naples Florida they drive like crazy, it’s the worst place I have ever been in for traffic and bad driving. I haven’t driven in Rome so can’t compare it to that one.
Thanks to TA contributors. We found the “Sweet Tomatoes” Restaurant on International Drive and Kirkman. It was as the contributor said absolutely delightful. It’s a “Buffet” style restaurant which does salads paster and sweets.. What a change to get away from Steak , Burgers,& Chicken ,Strips .
No meat at this place, But what a variation of meals you can get. The place while not packed seemed to be more busy than any where else, and it was low season. This was lovely place to eat, and we were told that next year they are going to open another at the Buena Vista, Downtown Disney area or on 192. Highly recommend this
Another contributor suggested checking out Blue Springs State Park. This is about 10 mile north of Sanford and 5 miles West of I 4. One of the nicest areas I have seen in Florida. This is where I would buy my house when the lottery jackpot comes up.
The park has a $5 entry fee per car, and perfect for both grown up and kids. Wild Manatees, fishing , swimming , boat rids and Canoe hire , Picnic areas wonderful for a half day or even a full day.
Other TA contributors suggested shopping around the different websites for the best Hotel prices, and we did this. Only to find vast difference in price for the same hotel. But we did OK. From Mainstreet USA, www.mainstreetonline.co.uk we bought 2 nights at the “Country Inns & Suites , lake Buena Vista for £59 (total) including taxes (2 nights). Lovely hotel in a nice area. Plenty of shops and restaurants within a short distance. Ideal for those who chose Not to have a car . I am not sure about the "within walking distance" comments of Downtown Disney ,Particularly if you have children and walking them. Coming home late from the parks after a long day and having to walk them back from Downtown to the hotel is not something I would want to do.. My only comment about this hotel is the pool is disappointing small. If I were going with kids I would pick the Country Inn& Suites at Calypso Cay in preference, where there are 3 lovely pools with slides etc which cater for all ages, even the very young.
Another of our bargain buys was with OnlineHotels.com where we bought 2 nights at the Best Western Island Gateway Fort Myers Beach normally a $110 + hotel , we paid $127 total, including tax.(2 nights)
Very nice hotel , full amenities including restaurant. Lovely large pool. Rooms were a little smaller than the ones we had been getting but nothing to complain about.
My other bargain buy was a “Flashy 7 speed Bicycle” from Wal-Mart. $94.
Our last hotel was the La Quinta just across the road from the Buena Vista outlets where Travel City Direct has a office and where for $5 per person you can check in on the day of your return. Anytime from 7;30 to 11;00 you can check in leave you luggage for them to take to the airport , chose your seat, collect your boarding card. And arrive at the airport 2 hrs before the flight. Leaves with only your carry on bags. You are then free for the day without the worry of bags and valuables left in the car and having to get to the airport early.Wonderful service.
We got rid of our luggage at 7;45 including the bicycle in a box. They Never batted an eyelid.
Our trip had cost a total of £804 which include car hire and Full insurance, pre booked seats, an extra 40 K of luggage .
Our return to Manchester was uneventful and 10 min early.
Other notes I made were ; Yes there are a number of car hire rentals companies at Sanford airport.
I Spoke to several on the plane and in hotels about the TCD issue . I did not hear a single complaint about Travel City Direct ( lots of complements). except one young man made the comment that the plane was a bit “Old” .
I asked him if he would fly on Concord if it were still in service and would he make the same comment.
Yes he would , and he wouldn’t not make the same comment. I then told him that this plane was at least 5 years younger than any Concord. I also pointed out at Sanford and as we were stood on the tarmac at Manchester for 15 min waiting to dock. Some Boeing 727,s a DC9, MD88, MD10-11, a Tri-Star, DC10 all of which were much older than the plane we were on , and in the case of the 727 the youngest of these is 35 years old
In the hotels I received complaint comments about Virgin, price and poor service. I heard from several families that Airtours are continuing to alienate a lot of their custumers with their 15k baggage allowance and weighing hand luggage in as well, and charging for everything on the plane including the in-flight meal.. They will be receiving some more angry letters in the near future as well as losing custumers .
The wife and I was highly satisfied with what we got from TCD . and appreciated the extra leg room that no other economy seat has ever given us . The 80 k baggage allowance. The early check in .
Will we use them again Certainly. Best value we have ever had. Best buy on the market.